Gandhidham: Delhi boys and girls will start as favorites in the Stage 1 Group C of the Ek Bharat Shreshtha Bharat Table Tennis Competition 2018 gets underway here at Kachchh District Table Tennis Association’s Indoor Stadium on Friday. The three-day event initiated by Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports will be held among youth boys and girls (under-21 years).

It is the format of this competition makes it interesting as two states are clubbed together as one team like Gujarat and Chhattisgarh form one team. Each team shall have five players, three from the strong team and two from the other. Delhi boys’ team has dynamic Parth Viramani, Payas Jain, Yashansh Mallik and Shreyas Goyal in their line-up. Vanshikha Bhargav and Ishita Gupta will shoulder the responsibility of girls’ team.

Meanwhile, state Youth Boys’ champion and local boy Ishaan Hingorani will lead the Gujarat-Chhattisgarh team. The lanky paddler will have the company of Ahmedabad-based Chitrax Bhatt and Kaushal Bhatt, while Parag Ganguly and Gajendra Chauhan will be joining from Chhattisgarh. Girls’ team has two Surat girls, Goa Nationals bronze medallist and Filzah Fatima Kadri and Sanskruti Malpani with Namna Jayswal of Bhavnagar, while R Dewanshi and Sarmishtha Sharma would represent Chhattisgarh.

The competition is held simultaneously at three more centers across the country - Ajmer in Rajasthan, Chandigarh and Dehradun / Solan are hosting the event. Players from 35 States and Union Territories are competing in the prestigious competition. The main purpose of the competition is to develop understanding and bonding between players of different states of the country. While Gujarat is paired with Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh and Meghalaya form one team and Madhya Pradesh is clubbed with Manipur. Delhi is the fourth team in team in the fray.

“This is an excellent initiative by the Shri Narendra Modi Government. Players from two different states having different cultures come together to form a team. The objective is to unite the country. This youth is the future and if there is unity among them the country will surely benefit. We are fortunate to host this bunch of talented paddlers,” said Vipul Mittra, IAS, and president Gujarat State Table Tennis Association.

The competition will be held in two stages and the top team from each zone will advance to the second stage scheduled in Indore. Besides team event, the second stage shall also have individual competition.